THE CUNLIFFE SISTERS, MARY, ALICIA & HARRIOT

by Annette Edwards.

These three sisters were the daughters of Robert Henry Cunliffe 4th Baronet (1785 – 1859) and Susan Emily Paton. (1807 – 1856)

Robert Henry was born in Chester and in 1805 married Louisa (maiden name Smith) in Lucknow, where he was a General in the Bengal Army. 

They had 4 known children all born in Bengal, George, Emma Rhoda, Robert Ellis and David. In 1820 there was a petition by Robert Henry to dissolve that marriage on the grounds of adultery and that he should be allowed to marry again.

The petition states they lived together until 1817 when he found out she was having an affair with Lieutenant Loftus who was also married, the report shows Louisa was a widow and her married name was Forest.

Whether the marriage was dissolved isn`t known, but it was 5 years before Robert Henry remarried in 1825 to Lady Susan Emily Paton in Kolkata, West Bengal and after Louisa died in 1822.

It`s known that there were at least 4 more sons to Robert Henry and Susan.

Henry born India 1826, Charles Watkin born 1833 joined the Bengal Civil service and was killed by mutineers at Bairamghat in 1857

Foster John born 1834 in India   died in Lucknow in 1857 and Frank born1839 in Wrexham died at Honduras 1878.

There were also 6 daughters, which meant that in total Robert Henry had 14 children by 2 wives.

Mary was born about 1829 and Harriot in 1831 both in Simla.  

Janet Victoria 1838, Clare 1840, Emily 1842 and   Alicia 1845 all born Wrexham

The first time we find the family in census is in 1851 when they are at Acton Hall, only Robert, Susan, Mary, Harriot and Alicia are there.

Janet Victoria is with her Uncle James Martin in Hanover Square, London where she is being educated at home.

Emily and   Clare are at Manor House Neston, where they are being privately educated

Susan Emily died 11 November 1856 in Bayswater, Kensington.

Robert died 10 September 1859 at Acton Park.

The 6 sisters seem to have stayed together for a while, as in 1861 they are at Milverton, Warwickshire.

In 1867 Janet Victoria married Andrew Aldcorn Munro, she died in 1900.

In April 1871 Mary, Harriot and Alicia were in Westminster.   At the same time Emily was in Italy,   news arrived that Emily was facing expulsion from Rome where she had been staying for the winter with two unrelated female friends.  It seems their lodgings were entered late at night and their rooms searched by the police.  The next day they came back and took their passports which were returned later that day with a notice to quit Rome in 24 hours.

“One rumour, among many circulated, that the ladies had been engaged in distributing unauthorized Italian Bibles, is, I am informed by those who know them, too remote from all probabilities, too foreign from their dispositions and wishes, to be worthy of refutation”

Extract from Aberyswyth Times.

“A communication on the subject has now been made to Lord Clarendon. A correspondent says it is known that the order of expulsion proceeded direct from the Pope himself.”

Extract from Aberyswyth Times.

On 6 November 1875 Clare married Thomas William Hooper Tolbort, Commisioner of Bengal Civil service in St. David’s Church, Shekh-Budin, Punjab.

Clare died at Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh on 31 October 1879.

In 1881 all 4 remaining unmarried sisters were together again in Knightsbridge. They seem to have mostly stayed in London but still attended public occasions and family events in Wales. They probably visited Europe over the years as many wealthy people did in the winters.

By 1911 Mary, Harriot and Alicia are back in Wrexham and living on Grosvenor Road. Emily has moved to Bournemouth.

In 1912 Mary died aged 83 and was buried on 26 October.

1916 was not a good year for the Cunliffe’s. On 13 July 1916 Foster Egerton Cunliffe was killed in the Somme, while in action with the Rifle Brigade.  He was the son of Robert Alfred Cunliffe and a nephew to the sisters. He was a military historian and a first class cricketer for Oxford. Just a few months later Alicia died on 20 September 1916 aged 70 and Harriot died aged 85 on 14 October 1916. They were very wealthy ladies, each leaving well over £12.000.

In 1917 Acton Park was sold to Sir Bernard Oppenheimer a diamond merchant and the long connection with the Cunliffe’s came to an end.

Emily Cunliffe died 22 on June 1926 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

Wrexham Cemetery 13/03/2018
Wrexham Cemetery 13/03/2018

Researched by Annette Edwards. July 2018. Gravestone photographs by Graham Lloyd.

Grave ref: Wrexham Cemetery E-01298 & 01299

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